“I Ain’t So Sure but What the Lord Done Put These Folks in Our Path for a Reason”: Latter-day Saints Building Communities Through Dancing in John Ford’s Wagon Master

  • Author(s): Ian Dwayne Pettigrew
  • When: 2015-10
  • Where: Journal of Religion & Film
  • One of Ford’s lesser known works, Wagon Master (1950), utilizes Mormonism’s affinity for dancing to build bonds between diverse groups, thus epitomizing the director’s optimistic vision of a united and progressive America. Through the development of the narrative and Wagon Master’s mise-en-scène, Ford displays a keen awareness of Mormon culture and the reasons dancing still holds such significance to members of the religion. Surprisingly, the film also captures a core tension of LDS culture: the desire to receive the inclusion of the rest of society whilst remaining a distinct and faithful people. For the Saints in the film, dancing navigates a path for them to temporarily resolve this conflict.

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